Thursday, August 20, 2015

Hiking in the Écrins national park. Dormillouse - Lac Palluel - Lac Faravel.

The most recent activity I've done was a pretty spectacular hike in the Écrins national park with my friend Lahari.  We were actually planning to go hiking the whole summer and hoped to camp up in the mountains over night, but finally, the only weekend that we managed to choose to go, it turned out the most unpredictable weather-wise.  The forecast was mainly for rain, but we still decided to go ahead and enjoy the great outdoors. 

For the first day, I planned a shorter hike near the city of Embrun.  It was 700m elevation to the lac l'Hivernet and back.  It was a bit of an adventure just to reach the starting point of the hike, as my GPS had a mind of it's own (and I am completely useless with directions).  We ended up on a road that kept getting narrower and narrower, steeper and windier, when finally it stopped at a dead end in the middle of nowhere.  The only thing that was in front of us was perhaps a trace of a road, which maybe existed decades ago, overgrown with large trees and grass.  (to make it more fun, we were in thick fog you could cut with a knife).  Thank god we somehow managed to turn the car around, because backing down kilometers on this ridiculously steep narrow road would be the end of me.  We drove back to the city and redirected the navigation up a different path which turned out to be good this time.  We had to conquer chaos in the city (it was the ironman race), we passed through more fog, and finally got to the start.

The hike had a very Halloween/spooky feel to it.  We were in a foggy forest, with tree shadows looming over us.  It started raining persistently.  I did not take my camera so the only worthwhile photo I took with Lahari's camera was the cobweb covered with drops on it.  We tested out our new ponchos which ended up being more wet on the inside than outside...condensation??? :)  And once out of the forest, the hike got steeper up into the alpine.  I was hoping for some miracle that we would pass the fog and get above the clouds and sure enough, we had about a 100m of fogless hiking just before reaching the lake. 

The lake was tiny and cute, if you can use that expression for a lake.  We saw some dramatic views of mountains and clouds and then the sun came out for a millisecond.   Our hands were frozen and we felt the cold wind up there.  We had a very rapid snack and put on all the warmest clothes we owned, wishing for some nice gloves (next time!).  Then came the sound of bells from the fogland, followed by sheep.  The map showed there should be a hut by the lake but we did not see anything.  We even hiked up higher to find it with no luck.  This made me think we might not be at the right lake!! :))  Who knows, it was pretty anyways. 

On the way back, the rain had stopped and clouds were clearing out.  The evening plan was to drive to our next hiking spot but we had no idea what kind of a challenge it will be.  It turned out the ironman race had still been going on, so we had to take a few detours, a few u-turns and so on and so get the idea.  Then the GPS wanted me to take another mountain road which to our luck was blocked.  The bottom line is, that we found our hiking start point after much longer than expected.  After dinner, we huddled in our Van and fell asleep...

Hike to Lac L'Hivernet "Start" is where we also finished.  Ascent and descent was 900m.  (I left my GPS on for the drive down :))

When hiking in the rain, you can find some pearls on a string.

When we woke up the second day we were quite excited because we saw blue skies and sunshine.  Even though we planned to get up at 6AM, we were glad to start moving at around 7:00 and finally set out on the hike at 8 or later.  This hike started with the ancient village of Dormillouse, continuing on to two lakes (Palluel and Faravel) and completing the loop at 16km and 1000m elevation.  The village itself has some really interesting history.  One thing that really stuck in mind for me, is that this is the only village in France where people live all year round but don't have any road access.   Other than two refuges, a church, and the local houses, a few ancient ruins remain around the village.

 After we left the village it was all pure nature and very few people.  We saw tonnes of Marmots, green velvet mountains, wild forest raspberries, fresh mountain streams, baby fish, picture perfect lakes, waterfalls, and impressive views.  So we enjoyed the sights, the sounds and the bliss of being out there.  I hope you enjoy the photos and get an idea of what we experienced.

Dormillouse ruins.

Marmot in the middle, Genepi plant on the right.

My hiking buddy.

Looking back down into the valley we came from.

After the rain...

Almost at the first lake!

Perfect reflection at lac Palluel.

Lunch, mmmmm...


Perfect body posture.

Cairns, millions of them!

And more yet again.

Lahari in the midst of Cairnland

Lac Faravel.

A valley where you can fit a million and one tents.

At lac Faravel.

A bit more rain.

Exploring the lake surroundings.

More reflections...

Time to head back.

One day we'll go to Mt Everest... ;)

The little white dots on the left is Dormillouse village.

After all that hiking, nothing feels better than dipping your sore feet in ice cold water!


But only for a few seconds because it's way too coooooold!!!

Glad we ended up going!  Thanks Lahari xox.

The summary.